The United States could be energy independent in as little as four years, according to a new forecast from the U.S. Energy Department.
The price of oil is fairly low -- about $55 a barrel. But if it spikes above $100 that could spur more U.S. oil production and cut demand for imported oil, according to the Energy Information Administration. In that case, "the United States becomes a net exporter of energy in 2019," the EIA said Tuesday.
But oil prices are more likely to post a slow and modest rise, said the EIA. That would mean the U.S. won't hit energy independence until 2028. But even that would be notable. A year ago the agency projected that the U.S. could only achieve energy independence with a steep price spike.
U.S. oil production has soared in recent years, to the point where the U.S. has already passed Saudi Arabia as the world's largest oil producer by some measures. New technology known as fracking provides access to new supplies of oil and natural gas.
The jump in oil production helped bring down the price of both oil and natural gas, as it flooded the market with supply. As a result, some oil companies have cut back on their drilling plans.
But even with low prices, U.S. crude oil production should hit a record this year.
The increase in U.S. oil output should keep the price of oil below $80 through 2020, and below $100 a barrel through at least 2028, according to the EIA.
Cars with better fuel economy as well as growth in alternative energy sources such as solar and wind are also helping to drive energy independence.